Fiona Dalton, CEO

Chief executive's blog - 6 January 2015


In my personal blog, I will keep you up to date on what is happening at the Trust, sharing what I think we are doing well and what we can improve.

Fiona Dalton, chief executive


One of challenges of my job (but also one of the reasons that I love it) is the constant switching between the immediate and the longer-term, and having to change gears between the operational and the strategic.

This felt particularly relevant just before Christmas, when I was switching between trying to support our acute services through a very challenging period of operational pressures, and working with the genetics team on developing our genomics strategy. I wrote about the operational pressures in my blog at the time, but I didn’t have a chance to write about genomics, and the importance to UHS of getting our strategy right on this.

The scientific advances in genomics are mind-blowing, and the ability to sequence the entire human genome is potentially game-changing for many aspects of healthcare. The detailed science is way beyond me  but I can see how we could move quite quickly into an entirely new era of personalised medicine, where we’ll increasingly be able to target specific drugs and therapeutics to individual patients. Fundamentally, this will enable us to provide much better care. It will help us to get the right treatment to the right patients, and ensure that other patients don’t endure painful side-effects from treatment that won’t actually benefit them.

How this will all actually play out within the context of the UK is still unknown, but I strongly believe that being part of this new world is essential to our future as a clinical academic centre. I was therefore absolutely delighted that we made two important steps in December towards achieving this. Firstly, we agreed a pilot project with Salisbury Hospital and the University of Southampton, to undertake some genetic sequencing in the WISH laboratory on F level of Southampton General Hospital. And secondly, we were successful in the bid that we led on behalf of Wessex to become a genomic medicine centre, collecting genetic samples for the national 100,000 genome project. Our genetics team did a fantastic job in leading this successful bid and I’m very grateful for all the hard work that they put into this.

We have a long way to go to make this vision of personalised medicine a reality – we are really just beginning to work through the data requirements and the changes to service models that we will need  but we have made two important steps in the right direction, to deliver both our clinical and research agenda for the future.

The clinical research that we do here is so important, and I was very pleased to support it in a small and personal way just before Christmas by being a ‘healthy volunteer’ in a diabetes study, based in our brilliant Clinical Research Facility. As with most research studies, volunteering is an opportunity to help improve care for patients in the future – in this case, to test risk assessment approaches for diabetes. But it’s also an opportunity to get some personal health information and advice. So whilst I am very pleased to find out that I don’t have diabetes, I have also made some New Year’s resolutions to live in a healthier way in order to reduce my personal risk of diabetes in the future.

So I would highly recommend volunteering for this research study (which is still looking for participants) or a similar one. It’s very straightforward and only takes half an hour. Helping to support the health of NHS staff is rising up the national agenda for the whole NHS, and it’s something that I want us to seriously think about this year. One of the ways in which I think we will able to approach it is to link into the clinical research that is done here, and this trial would be a good example of this.

Finally, I wanted to wish everyone a very happy new year. I hope that you look back on 2014 with a sense of pride for what you achieved and that 2015 brings you happiness, both in the hospital and at home.

Fiona Dalton

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